Madam Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-77 today. I am especially honoured to do so following my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord's first speech in the House. We are all very proud of him. He was just elected with 53% of the popular vote. Compare that to our party's fourth-place finish three years ago. These things are worth remembering.
Bill C-77 is about reforming the military justice system. During my brief remarks, I will remind the House that this bill is essentially the same as Bill C-71, which we introduced when we were in government. It speaks to an issue that arouses tremendous compassion in everyone on both sides of the House.
Thousands of Canadians serve their country as members of the Canadian Armed Forces' army, navy and air force. We are all very grateful to these men. Although CFB Valcartier is not in my riding—that is an honour belonging to my colleague from Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, who represents the folks at Valcartier very well—several hundred of the base's 6,000 soldiers do live in my riding.
Fall is here and in six weeks, on November 11, we will be commemorating Remembrance Day. This year will be special as we mark the 100th anniversary of the armistice of 1918. As hon. members know, on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, the First World War was to end. Unfortunately, other conflicts followed. Let us commemorate the thousands of Canadians who gave their lives so that we may live in freedom. Let us always remember the extraordinary sacrifices that these young men and women made during the different conflicts, especially during the First World War and the Second World War.
I have the extraordinary privilege of coming from a family that served its country. My father served during the campaign in Italy, among others, for the French Army under the command of Marshal Juin during the Second World War. My maternal grandfather, Paul Ponzelli, served in the First World War. He was in the French army and fought in the battle of Verdun, among others. I would also like to salute the people at the Consulate General of France in Quebec City, who are currently preparing a special commemoration for November 11. My mother will take part in this tribute being held six weeks from now.
Bill C-77 proposes reforms to the military justice system, which, naturally, is a delicate subject. Our men and women in uniform serve their country, but men being men and women being women, reprehensible behaviour can sometimes happen. This is why we have a military justice system. Canadians who put on the uniform accept that this uniform comes with responsibilities. Cases of reprehensible behaviour must be considered in the context of military action, because when these soldiers put on the uniform and carry a weapon, they can be sent to a combat theatre. The enemy will always be an enemy, which means that a solder may commit an act that would be considered criminal in the civilian world, but heroic in the military world. This is why the military justice system is different from the civilian system. Of course, this does not mean that soldiers should not have a dignified and honourable conduct in civilian life.
When we were in government, we introduced Bill C-71, which would have amended the military justice system. Some aspects of Bill C-71 are similar to our bill, such as enshrining victims' rights in the National Defence Act, imposing a six-month limitation period for summary trials and stipulating which cases should be handled in summary trial. These are the parts of the bill we agree with. I would like to point out that this bill was drafted with the assistance of our government's former justice ministers, namely the hon. Peter MacKay, the hon. Jason Kenney, and the hon. member for Niagara Falls, who is still serving his constituents in the House of Commons.
We also have some concerns about the fact that justice will likely be different for some people than for others. It is important to remember that there is a reason why justice is blind. Portrayals of Themis show what we want from a justice system. She is often portrayed with her eyes blindfolded, a sword in one hand and the scales of justice in the other. The sword is for punishing those who commit reprehensible acts and the scales are to ensure that everyone's rights are respected.
It is important to note that, in this allegorical personification of justice, Themis with her eyes covered, justice is blind. People must be judged based on their actions, not on who they are as a person. Some aspects of the legislation must be reviewed. For us, it is important to ensure that people are being judged based on their actions, and not on who they are, what they represent or embody, or their very nature even. We have to be careful about that. That is why the bill will be examined in committee by my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord and others. It is important to remember that, as parliamentarians, we do indeed have the right to debate bills here.
I participated in all of today's debates and I was surprised to hear some of my government colleagues criticize us for rising to speak to this bill. Need I remind the government that this bill, which is almost a carbon copy of what we produced three years ago, was only introduced after three years by the Liberals? It is not because there are seven, eight, ten or twelve members who want to speak and debate lasts for one, two or three days that members will take offence and start getting annoyed. We must remember that our first duty here, in the House of Commons, is to express ourselves, as we are doing, to the extent possible and, above all, within the allotted time frame.